Why God Commands Christians to Love Our Enemies When He Does Not
Because God is love (1 Jn 4:8), many draw a false conclusion of universal love for everyone and everything. Universalism is a heresy, so others look for relief, by claiming God loves everyone, but everyone is required to love Him back. This is the Arminian heresy. The natural man has no mind for this (1 Cor 2:14), nor the will for it (Jn 1:12–13), nor is he able to do what God requires of him (Rom 8:7).
Are Christians commanded to love our enemies? Jesus taught, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44)…do good to those who hate you (Lk 6:27)…lend, expecting nothing in return, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Lk 6:35).” This is not grace, but there is a providential care for His creation.
So does God love everyone, everywhere, at all times? No, God hates those who do iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5), and He is angry with the wicked all day everyday (Ps 7:11). That covers absolutely everyone who has ever been created. Because all have sinned (Rom 3:23; 5:12), the righteous wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all people ever conceived (Ps 51:5; Rom 1:18).
The Bible is filled with destructive scenes from history. God destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Assyrians at Jerusalem, the Sodomites, the Babylonians, and ethnic Israel at the Roman invasion of General Titus in A.D. 70. Did God destroy in the name of Love?
Our danger as theologians — and yes, everyone is a theologian — is to isolate one attribute of God and pit it against another attribute of God. In other words, God is more than just one of His attributes or one of His actions. He is perfect in each one of His attributes; therefore, He is perfectly good (goodness is one of His attributes) in all of His actions. He is immutable, which means that He is always the same in His character.
Situations in the Bible put God on display, for us to see His attributes and His actions. We are also blessed to have His explanations in these circumstances. In other words, we know why God executes wrath. He is showing us His just judgment against sins. We also know why God executes His salvation, of His elect, remnant people. He is showing us love.
God demonstrates His love for us (Rom 5:8), ungodly sinners (Rom 5:6), by showing us what Jesus Christ did on the cross two thousand years ago. Christ died for us (Rom 5:8; 1 Thess 5:10). He also loved us, when He gave us the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). Not everyone has the Spirit of the Son of God (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9), so the Bible says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 Jn 5:12).”
When God gives His Son, by the Spirit, He is giving His love to that person. So how does the love/Son find its way into our lives? It is by the preaching of the Gospel. Proclaiming Jesus Christ is the most loving act known to humanity, next to Jesus’ crucifixion itself.
When a Christian tells you about God, who is love (character attribute), He must tell you about God’s Son and His sacrificial death (good action). The motive and action were love. God the Father loved. God the Son loved. Does God the Spirit love, too?
The Spirit constrains the preacher, with God’s love and the method for sharing God’s love (preaching). Then, love is poured out in the hearts which receive the gift of the Spirit (Rom 5:5). This is unfailing love (1 Cor 13:8).
If Christians are commanded to love, and they are, then it is the Holy Spirit, who causes them to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27), which includes loving God and loving one’s neighbor (Lk 10:27). In this, Christians are imitators of God, as His beloved children (1 Jn 3:1, 10); and who walk in love, just as Christ loved them and gave Himself for them (Eph 5:2).
So why are the numerical comparisons of those in eternal hell so lopsided? The damned did not receive God’s love/Son, so as to be saved. What went wrong? How did love fail in this case?
When a Christian goes into all the world (Mt 28:19–20; Mk 16:15), His mission, in suffering for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10), is tell everyone of God’s love/Son. The result of this loving endeavor is that God’s love/Son is transferred to, or set upon, the heart of God’s chosen people.
This is not true, however, for those who do not love the truth (2 Thess 2:10). They have no love for God in their hearts (Jn 5:42). They do not love God because He did not love them, first (1 Jn 4:19). There is love in election (Eph 1:4–5), love in redemption (Rom 5:8), but there must also be love in regeneration (Rom 5:5).
Love flushes out the elect, who are not yet regenerate. Christians have no idea who is elect, and we are not great judges of who is regenerate, either. Therefore, God commands us to love one another, our neighbor, and even our enemies. His promise is to bless our labors of love.
We embrace these promises, by faith, whether we are planting, watering, or harvesting in God’s kingdom work. He alone gives life to the hearers of His Word, to whomever He wishes (Jn 5:21). Many are called but few are chosen (Mt 22:14). Regardless of the outcome, God did not hide His love/Son. He is to be preached to all creation, as an act of love toward the enemies of God, some of whom are elect (Rom 5:8; 8:30)
Christian, know that God’s love is exclusive for His beloved church (Eph 5:25). He will surely find His lost sheep (Lk 19:10), and He will keep them safe (Jn 10:28–29; Rom 8:35–39), until the last one enters the sheepfold of His church (Rom 11:25).
Some, today, are dazed and confused in the company of God’s enemies. Show love, by telling everyone that God is on a mission to reconnaissance His beloved people in the world (Rom 9:15). Those who belong to Him (1 Cor 3:23), will hear His voice through you (Jn 10:3–4), as the Spirit opens their hearts to respond (Acts 16:14). All that the Father gives to His Son will come to Him (Jn 6:37). This is good news. It is the Gospel of salvation, of God saving His people, enslaved in the enemy’s camp, from the enemy himself.
Everything God is and does, compels us to obey Him, when He says, “Go get your brother and your sister and bring them to Me. Assure them of My Love.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
August 16, 2022